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Old 01-21-2011, 07:41 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by kaplods View Post
Yes there are a lot of selfish people, but there are also people who put themselves last in their life. Everyone else's needs come before their own.

I was taught to be that kind of person. I was taught that it was just what women were supposed to do - do good in the world and take care of everyone else.

Until I got sick, I always worked two jobs, mostly in social service, teaching and in law enforcement (as a child care worker in a juvenile detention home and as a probation officer. Probation officers at least in my county were 80% life coach/counselor and only 20% law enforcement).

I did volunteer work and even my jobs were about taking care of others.

I wasn't a saint. Far from it, because I didn't fully realize that helping others was a choice. The gifts I gave weren't usually an anonymous gift where no one knew but me, so I fed off the joy I could bring others. That can be it's own type of selfishness - living vicariously through others.

Don't get me wrong, I still like that kind of giving and there's nothing worng with it. It feels wonderful to know you're helping someone (even if they don't appreciate it at the time). I loved when I'd run into someone I'd helped years later and they told me how I'd helped them.

But too much of my joy in life came from helping. I burnt the candle at both ends. I wasn't lacking confidence, or self-esteem, or even self-love. I liked the person I was, and I thought I was taking care of myself, but I was still putting myself dead-last more often than not.

Food was my main "guilty pleasure," the one way I took care of myself (but I really wasn't. I was responding to my emotional needs, not my physical ones).

I think my helping others was more selfish than I realized. It was filling my need to nurture. I was giving away what I needed from others. I lived vicariously through the people I helped. Even among my friends, I was always the one everyone went to for advice and a shoulder to cry on. I didn't know how to cry on anyone else's shoulder (I convinced myself that I didn't need anyone to do that for me - food was my emotional support system).

Loving yourself and loving others is about balance. Finding a way to meet your own needs and the needs of others. Some people need to learn to take, and others need to learn to give, and many people need to learn balance.

Balance isn't popular in the world today. We're a culture of extremes, not of moderation. When I was a kid, I used to hear "there are givers and there are takers in this world." (This was usually followed by either the compliment "and you are a giver," or the insult "you are a taker.")

I think more people need to learn to do both. To be fair to others and fair to themselves. Helping others is a wonderful gift, but not if you're doing it in order to feel good about yourself. Then it can almost be like an addictive drug, and you can hurt yourself and make yourself less useful to others in the long run.

I would have been able to stay in the helping professions longer, if I hadn't decided that sleep and health were acceptable sacrifices. In the long-run I short-changed not only myself, but all of the people I wanted to help.
As a fellow "reformed social worker" I can really relate to what you are saying.

Putting your needs first when appropriate is self love.
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